At the beginning of the 20th century, when 12-string guitars first appeared in the United States, the instruments were considered novelty items, curiosities, freaks of guitar making that were beneath the dignity of serious companies like Martin and Gibson. But when Blind Willie McTell picked up a Stella 12-string in 1927, and then basically never put it down, the instrument was suddenly legitimized.

A folk singer named Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, had actually made the Stella 12-string his own earlier, in 1912, but Lead Belly had so many scrapes with the law and spent so much time in prison that he wouldn’t get a chance to popularize the ringing tones of the 12-string until the 1930s and ’40s. Even then, his biggest hit, “Good Night Irene,” came after his death in 1949.

Pete Seeger and the Weavers kept the 12-string sound alive until the 1960s, when groups like the Rooftop Singers (“Walk Right In”) made it the go-to instrument on the commercial folk scene. Gibson was ready with its B-45 in 1961 and its B-25 in 1962, while Martin got on board a bit later with its D12-20 in 1964 and D12-35 in 1965.

The loudest noise in 12-strings, though, was made by Rickenbacker, thanks to a custom, one-of-a-kind 12-string version of its 325 hollowbody electric guitar made in 1964 for John Lennon of the Beatles. George Harrison also became a Rickenbacker acolyte, playing his Rickenbacker 360 12-string on songs like "A Hard Day’s Night."

One musician who liked that sound a lot was Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. Reportedly, he bought a 360-12 after seeing the movie named after of the famous Beatles song. He went on to play a 12-string on one of the Byrds’ biggest hits, “Turn Turn Turn.”

By the late 1970s, newer companies like Taylor made acoustic 12-strings part of their lines. Once again, a key musician would cement the instrument's sound in our collective soundtrack. In this case it was Neil Young who, while vacationing in Florida, purchased a Taylor 12-string, an 855, at a local music shop. Young liked his 855 so much he ordered a second, and Taylor subsequently gained widespread recognition when Young’s 855 figured prominently in his concert film, "Rust Never Sleeps."


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Recent News: 12 String Guitars

Source: Google News

Americana on Swansboro waterfront Aug. 24
Carolinacoastonline, August 21st

Adrian Mowry plays the 12-string guitar. The duo's performances exhibit a rich and honest feel, noticeably influenced by family ties. Beaucoup Blue has released three albums: “Out Of The Woodwork” (2003) and “Hearts at Home” (2005). Grammy-nominated ...Read more

Listen to Lead Single from Jackson Browne's Upcoming Album Online Now
WFJA Classic Hits and Oldies 105.5 FM, August 19th

The new version of the song features Browne's longtime lead guitarist Greg Leisz playing 12-string guitar in a style very reminiscent of McGuinn's. Standing in the Breach will be released on October 7. Those pre-ordering the album now via Amazon...Read more

Scott Matthews review – engagingly thoughtful and classy singer-songwriter
The Guardian, August 19th

He strapped on a harmonica, which made a curious blend with the cello, for the drifting and tuneful The Outsider, and showed off his folk-blues roots by switching to 12-string guitar for a gutsy revival of Passing Stranger from 2006, before, of course...Read more

Jackson Browne Returns to an Old Favorite: Hear 'The Birds of St. Marks'
RollingStone.com, August 18th

He told her, 'Yeah, you should play the melody with your left hand.' And she thought that McGuinn was like an avant-garde guitarist." The finished version of the song features Greg Leisz playing a McGuinn-esque 12-string guitar and can be streamed below...Read more

Mark Lewisohn, Mike Pender are among the celeb lineup at The Fest for Beatles ...
Chicago Sun-Times, August 15th

That's his tribute to George Harrison, who inspired him to buy the Rickenbacker 12-string guitar that became a big part of the sound for the Searchers, a Liverpool band who had seven Top-40 hits in the U.S. and 12 in the U.K.. “We were in the TV studio...Read more

Fab Four fever hits Rosemont with Fest for Beatles Fans
Barrington Courier-Review, August 12th

That's his tribute to George Harrison, who inspired him to buy the Rickenbacker 12-string guitar that became a big part of the sound for the Searchers, a Liverpool band who had seven Top-40 hits in the U.S. and 12 in the U.K.. “We were in the TV studio...Read more

Bat: His music is unique and he's bringing it to Dover
Foster's Daily Democrat, August 11th

This CD features some of the finest 12 string guitar playing anywhere, but also includes some compositions for nylon-string Classical guitar, Ukulele, and an Acapella doo-wop piece. The songs and complete CD ('Digital Sculpture' released 4 /14) will be ...Read more

Taylor Guitars at 2014 Summer NAMM: 150E 12-String Guitar — Demo Video
Guitar World Magazine, July 28th

As always, several members of the Guitar World crew were on hand at the 2014 Summer NAMM Show in lovely and talented Nashville, Tennessee, taking pics, getting the latest gear news and shooting plenty of videos. While we were there, we stopped by the ...Read more